Student who was allegedly suspended for ‘not respecting pronouns’ sues school

A New Hampshire high school student athlete was suspended from a football game in September for saying that there are only two genders while on the school bus and in text messages with a fellow classmate. The student and his mother are suing the school district for his suspension.

The student, a freshman at Exeter High School and only identified as M.P. in court documents, was discussing the difficulty he was having of addressing a non-binary person in Spanish with his friends on the school bus.

A female student interjected to argue when M.P. replied, “There are only two genders.” After the initial discussion on the bus, the two students debated gender and sexuality over text messages, initiated by the female student. The messages were handed over to school administrators, and M.P. was suspended for “not respecting pronouns.”

The lawsuit was filed on November 4 in Rockingham Superior Court against what the suit defines as New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 16 (SAU16), which is a school district in the state that includes Exeter High School as well as the school’s assistant principal, Marcy Dovholuk.

The high school enacted a policy in 2016 regarding gender nonconforming students, stating that “a student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity.” The policy also says that “the intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity is a violation of this policy.” 

But M.P. holds, as reflected in the lawsuit, that the policy is an infringement on his First Amendment rights, saying it penalizes students for their religious beliefs when they refuse to address non-binary students with their chosen pronouns.

“The student does not deny that he violated the Gender Nonconforming Students policy,” the lawsuit says. “He in fact denied, and will continue to deny, that any person can belong to a gender other than that of ‘male’ or ‘female.’”

The suit goes on to say, “The student will never refer to any individual person using plural pronouns such as ‘they,’ using contrived pronouns such as ‘ze,’ or with any similar terminology that reflects values with (the student) does not share.” 




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